Hippo Knitting fights to save jobs

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Bereng Mpaki

HIPPO Knitting is working hard to secure orders for its orders from buyers to save the jobs of all its workers.

The company this week said it was optimistic that it could end up not retrenching any workers. At the worst, the company may end up retrenching just 200 workers instead of the 600 that it had initially planned to retrench.

The company this week said it was leaving no stone unturned to secure more orders from its international buyers so that it can avoid retrenching its workers.

The company has been experiencing depressed orders due to shipping delays and Covid-19 resulting in it parting ways with its key buyer in 2021.

As a result, the company recently told its workers that it intended to retrench some of its 975 workers to stay afloat.

In an interview with Lesotho Times this week, the factory said it was making positive progress towards securing more orders and may no longer need to retrench as many employees as it had initially anticipated.

Located in the Ha-Hoohlo, in Maseru, the Taiwanese-owned factory produces knitted garments for the United States (US) market under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which allows duty free exports from Lesotho to the US.

The company said it was yet to finalise retrenchments as consultations with workers’ representatives were on-going. Although unions had said 750 workers were to be retrenched, the company said it was planning to retrench 600 workers. And now it could end up retrenching just 200.

“Initially, we had told the workers’ representatives that we may have to retrench 600 workers for the company to be sustainable, but that number has gone down to 200 because we have since secured some more purchase orders from buyers,” Hippo Knitting human resources officer, Lydia Pakola, said.

“We have not yet given employees retrenchment letters because we are yet to finalise the issue as we are still in consultation with their representatives.

“We continue to work hard to find more orders to make the company sustainable. It is difficult to get new buyers to plug the shortage of orders that we have at the moment. The situation was caused by shipping delays and high cost of logistics due to Covid-19.”

On his part, Lentsoe La Sechaba Workers Union secretary general, Monaheng Mokaoane, said they were yet to reach any agreement regarding retrenchments at Hippo Knitting.

Contacted for comment, Labour and Employment Minister, Moshe Leoma, said it was encouraging that Hippo Knitting had reconsidered the number of workers to be retrenched.

He said job losses in the textile industry have been a serious challenge to the government and they were yet to find a solution.

“This is an encouraging development if they will now only be retrenching 200 and not 600. It would be good not to retrench anyone.

“I also urge the workers representatives to meet the employer and find an amicable solution to the impending job losses which we really cannot afford anymore.

“I am hopeful that something can be worked out to save the jobs. The government has not yet found a solution to the job losses at the moment but we continue trying,” Mr Leoma said.

The textile industry has suffered massive job losses in recent times since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2021, the Nien Hsing Group of factories retrenched 5500 employees citing lack of demand in the market.

The job losses were a result of closure of two of the group’s factories Nien Hsing International Lesotho and C&Y Garments last year. Prior to that, in 2020, the group had closed another factory, Glory International, which employed an estimated 1500 workers. It is estimated that at least 11 000 workers have been retrenched since 2020.

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